It would be difficult to guess the monetary value on the Museum of the Rockies’ (MoR) collections, as putting a dollar value on one-of-a-kind collections and paleontological pieces is not a straightforward process. This is an issue the MoR is currently dealing with, as the state demands a more accurate insurance value be calculated for all of the items housed there.
The state’s Risk Management Tort Defense Division insures all university-owned collections—their fine arts insurance program requires that all entities annually report the market value for insured items. In January 2015, MSU reported an approximate value of $60 million for the items in its permanent collection. The Montana Legislative Audit Division’s report states, “The university was not able to provide us with documentation supporting the $60 million estimated value of exhibited and stored items.”
The state then asked that MSU provide this documentation. The recommendation for the MoR is one of 12 made by the state’s Legislative Audit Division for MSU, all of which were presented in November to the Montana Board of Regents. These audits are routine, but the challenge lies in figuring out how to actually value the items being insured. The Montana Legislative Audit’s report stated that an adequately documented insurance value is necessary to prevent the university from under-insuring the collection, which could result in being unable to make up for a loss, or over-insuring the collection, which would cause unnecessary insurance costs.
MSU is currently working on calculating accurate values for items but is also trying to balance other commitments. Quickly calculating an accurate value for the entire MoR collection would take a large amount of resources. Daniel Adams, director of audit services at MSU, coordinates between MSU and the state’s audit division. He explained that MSU is going to take its time to determine a value in order to efficiently allocate its resources, as well as to do an accurate job of valuing the items. “You don’t want to figure it out in a hurry, because sometimes you might get into something and it may be different from what you originally think,” said Adams.
For historical items, comparison may be used to derive market values. For example, the Montana Historical Society Museum has many items comparable to those at the MoR. The controversy about the audits arose largely in response to putting values on paleontological items. These are more difficult to compare and have raised questions of morality.
Shelley McKamey, the executive director at the MoR, says that the question the state brought up about valuing the items is one that needs to be addressed. She said the first step will be figuring out how to value the items through fact-checking and communicating with other entities. The second step will be figuring out the logistics of combing through the MoR’s entire collection. “I don’t think that it’s going to be an easy process, or a quick process,” said McKamey. She also said that talking with the federal agencies that own pieces in the collection will be important.